Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda: Jainas' Syādvāda And Bradley's View Of Judgment

Published: 13.06.2012
Updated: 02.07.2015

Jainas' Syādvāda And Bradley's View Of Judgment[1]

It seems somewhat paradoxical to find in Jainas' theory of judgment very much the same epistemological standpoint concerning the nature of objects as in that of Bradley, for, as regards their metaphysical and ontological views are concerned, both stand poles apart. The Jainas are realist and relativistic pluralist believing, on the one hand, not only in the reality of objects seen and perceived independent of any conscious effort, but at the same time believing in the real existence of many objects. Bradley, on the other hand, is an idealist of a very rigorous type who, contrary to what Hegel and other traditional idealists have been doing, would not tolerate even the identification of objects in the phenomenal world with thought, but would believe in merging all aspects of the universe into one infinite and homogeneous whole of experience or the sentience. However, the views of Jainas and Bradley concerning judgment or any proposition expressing truth and falsehood with respect to some phenomenal reality are very much identical.

Let us first refer to Jainas' view of Anekāntavāda according to which there are not only innumerable types of realities both material and spiritual, but their character too is such that no categorical statement regarding their appropriate nature can be considered true and proper. Since every aspect of the universe possesses infinite number of both positive and negative character, it is utterly impossible to say anything regarding its nature which would be true unconditionally. The simple reason for holding such a view is that human knowledge is so limited and conditional that to transcend the region of what appears to the sense would be beyond human resources unless one is omniscient (Kevali) being. Thus very like the Einsteinian view of truth, things and objects in the universe are true relatively, i.e. relative to the particular space and time. Thus speaking of a gold jug, we may say that "it is atomic in the sense that it is a composite of earth atoms and not atomic in the sense that it is not a composite of water-atoms. Again it is a composite of earth-atoms only in the sense that gold is a metallic modification of earth, and not any other modification of earth as clay or stone".[2]

Evidently it is only in relation to different standpoints that things and objects, though possessed of infinite determinations (anantadharmātamakaṃ Vastu), can be said to have a particular quality or character. This view which believes in the reality of such a character is technically known as naya and is considered to be most catholic in view of the fact that it does not disregard or reject the views of other thinkers like the Buddhists or the Advaita-Vedāntins, who would lay stress either on the impermanent and transitory character of being or on its unchangeable and permanent character. In this sense the Jainas' view of naya is an attempt to reconcile the conflicting claims of the epistemological thinkers giving a death blow to their dogmatic approach towards things and their nature that what they think or hold is alone true and real. Thus 'the nature of being (Sat) then is neither the absolutely unchangeable, nor the momentary changing qualities or existences, but involves them both.[3] This being the case whatever assertion is made with respect to a thing can be true and real relative to a particular universe of discourse or such other factors as space, time or quality and each assertion should, therefore, be understood only in reference thereto. In short, all affirmations made from whatever standpoint (naya) cannot be regarded as absolute and can be true in some (Syādasti) or 'may be it is' sense.

Bradley, on the other hand, considers judgment as a means where with the aid of ideas we express the truth or falsehood in relation to certain fact. These ideas, contrary to what the empiricist thinkers consider, are the expressions of certain meaning which we derive only by the analysis of the judgment itself and in this sense, therefore, they are the results of the adjectives made loose from their substantive. Thus 'when we talk of an idea which is the same amid change, we do not speak of that psychical event which the mind has fixed, and which is not in any sense an event in time. We are talking of the meaning, not the series of symbols'.[4] And it is because of this emphasis on meaning that no judgment in Bradleian sense is just what it stands for and instead of being unique and particular, it transcends the given and it may mean other than what we aim at. This is why Bradley has been very much particular about this peculiar nature of judgment when he says:

'Judgment proper is the act which refers an ideal content… to a reality beyond the act'.[5]

Every judgment attempts to qualify the real as it appears in perception and in this respect there is always a reference of some ideal content to a reality. Our act of judgment 'attaches the floating adjective to the nature of the world'. But such an act hardly makes the judgment as something unique and particular in the sense that in spite of all its actuality and uniqueness the judgment ceases to qualify the real in the true sense with the result that the judgment can never be particular. For the essence of reality or fact is to be 'substantial and individual' and this 'not given directly in any truth whatsoever. It can never be stated categorically'.[6] For instance, to say that 'Caesar is sick' is not to say that Caesar is nothing other than sick, for 'he is a common bond of many attributes, and is therefore universal'.[7]

Thus though it seems that the contents in many cases remain 'fixed and defined by a complex of relations which the judgments imply'[8] and hence everything present or termed as this', 'now' or 'here' signifying something 'unique and self-contained' affirms 'absolute, final and unalterable truths', yet no view regarding the matter of facts can be held to be absolute. As Bradley argues:

'You cannot at once translate feeling into judgment and leave feeling untransformed; and what is lost in the translation is the positive uniqueness which you demand… And since your truth fails and must fail to contain the positive meaning, your truth is defective and is self-condemned.'[9]

The reason for such a view is not sufficient to give to our event an exclusive place in its series. For it may seem that a fact or an event has a unique place within a single unique order or that it has a particular character or quality, yet that fact can never be so considered and its 'nature becomes general and ceases forthwith to be what we mean by particular'.[10] Joachim too confirms this view when he says: 'No judgment is ever entirely severed from a larger background of meaning, though the background may be relatively obscure'.[11]

In this respect Bradley considers the absolute view of "perfect truth and sheer error' as arising out of the wrong conception of the nature of things that 'separate facts and truths are self-contained and possess independent reality'.[12] And even if we refer to the 'mathematical truths' or 'universal judgments of science, similar difficulty is experienced, though they seem to express 'necessary connection of content'. For instance, when it is asserted that 2+2=4, it is meant that the addition of such units as two and two must necessarily be four; and similarly 'Hydrogen is lighter than air' seems to give an absolute meaning regarding the truth of this fact. It is true, Bradley suggests, that 'mathematical Truths' as well as truths concerning the 'universal judgments of science' are based upon certain conditions and under those conditions the results which follow acquire meaning suggestive of pure truth and utter falsehood. But when we have passed beyond the world of 'special science' and have referred our judgment to things beyond what is there, which influence the function of life and finally limit our vision that we are ultimately compelled to reject the absolute view regarding truth. For, in scientific thinking, what is needed is the elimination of all irrelevant matters from the contents of judgments to make them thoroughly complete and consistent so as to give a meaning which may be wholly true. But this way of judging is based entirely on the abstraction of fact and event from all else, and this necessitates our thinking to remain confined to simple entities presented to us without any consideration of the context. But "such a background is focussed and concentrated, more or less, in every judgment which one makes, or again in every judgment which one accepts from another person".[13] In this respect, the meaning of any judgment is dependent upon our concrete thinking, which is possible not by abstractions of entities out of the whole, but by viewing them in their context or the conditions under which they occur. And it is mainly because of the lack of vision or awareness of the situation, which is vaguely involved in every act of judgment that Bradley conceives all judgments as relative and conditional.

Thus very like Jainas' doctrine of syādvāda every assertion can be true only relatively or conditional to certain space and time which factors are always implied with the result that 'all judgments will rest on suppose. It is all hypothetical, itself will confess that what directly it deals with, is unreal'.[14] Thus an affirmative judgment, 'the jug is' may mean in Jainas' sense an affirmation of being (syādasti), and it may also mean the negation of being (syānnāsti), as they argue:

"That 'the jug is' means 'this jug is here' which naturally indicates that 'this jug is not there' and thus the judgment 'the jug is' (i.e. is here) also means that 'the jug is not there'… and this justifies us in saying 'may be that in some sense the jug is', and 'may be in some sense that the jug is not'… Thus all affirmations are true, are not true, are both true and untrue, and thus unspeakable, inconceivable, and indefinite."[15]

In this context it would not be out of place to mention that Russell too seems to support the view held by the Jainas. For while believing in the existence of objects in the physical world, Russel does not accept the identification of an object with the sensation of it in view of the fact that between an object and the sensation we have an enormous factors like light-waves or ether-waves besides the effect of the change in space and time all of which go to falsify our judgment regarding the nature of things seen and perceived. The result has been that different people see the same object as of different shapes or colours according to their point of view. Thus circular coin, for example, though we should always judge it to be circular will look oval unless we are straight in front of it,[16] and this makes a difference between what is appearance and that which is real. If such be the case that there would always be a difference between an object in the physical space and our knowledge of the same, it would rather be inappropriate to hold that any view regarding the nature of an object would be true absolutely.

In view of the above discussion it would be clear that the Jainas were not blind in holding such a view regarding the nature of objects in the physical space on grounds of common-sense realism, but that they had vision of things and what they believed was based on a most scientific and cogent basis. For, who could deny that 'affirmations or judgments according to any naya or standpoint cannot therefore be absolute' considering the fact that 'even contrary affirmations of the very self-same things may be held to be true from other points of views'. Speaking from a practical point of view, since both according to Jainas and Bradley most contrary characteristics of infinite variety may be associated with a thing, affirmation made with respect to it from whatever standpoint can never be absolute. "Thus in the positive relation riches cannot be affirmed of poverty but in the negative relation such an affirmation is possible as when we say 'the poor man has no riches'.....Thus in some relation or -other anything may be affirmed of any other thing, and in other relations the very same thing cannot be affirmed of it'. (Op. cit. p. 176) This gives a clue to the real nature of being which the act of our judgment fails to qualify in the right and proper sense so as to give a meaning which may become categorical, positive or absolute without exception.


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Published by:
Jain Vishwa Bharati Institute
Ladnun - 341 306 (Rajasthan) General Editor:
Sreechand Rampuria
Edited by:
Rai Ashwini Kumar
T.M. Dak
Anil Dutta Mishra

First Edition:1996
© by the Authors

Printed by:
Pawan Printers
J-9, Naveen Shahdara, Delhi-110032

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anekāntavāda
  2. Kevali
  3. Naya
  4. Omniscient
  5. Russell
  6. Science
  7. Space
  8. Syādvāda
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